4 Useful Technologies Made Possible by Computers
MAR 24, 2017 14:10 PM
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4 Useful Technologies Made Possible by Computers

By Larry Alton

People love to joke about disk drives that were once the size of washing machines. Except it’s not really a joke—it’s true. With a fresh coat of white paint, the RP04 disk drive could easily infiltrate any laundry room and blend right in. With a 92MB capacity, you could almost store the photos of your dinner you posted to Instagram last night.

Today, this technology once considered cutting-edge has become obsolete. Large, clunky, slow machines have been replaced with lightning fast, smart technology that does more than just sit in a corner and collect dust.

Here are four computer-based, cutting edge technologies you can’t live without:

1. Thunderbolt 3

If you’ve purchased or used a new Macbook Pro, you may have noticed the lack of familiar ports and the addition of a strange, new port called Thunderbolt 3. You may be wondering what Apple was thinking when they eliminated the standard USB port. This move, like many of Apple’s moves, has created frustration among users who just want to be able to plug in their USB devices without an adapter. But don’t get frustrated yet. There is a purpose to this future-forward move.

Thunderbolt 3 is a high bandwidth technology that operates at 40Gb/second, as opposed to the USB 3 you’re used to operating at just 5Gb/second. This means you can plug your smartphone into your Macbook and it will charge much faster than before. Gone are the days of waiting all night for your devices to charge via your computer’s USB port. But Thunderbolt 3 does more than just quickly charge your devices.

Superior technology

Thunderbolt 3 is a superior technology that leaves standard USB in the dust. With Thunderbolt 3, you can copy 14 hours of high definition video in less than a minute. You can also copy 25,000 photos or 10,000 songs in less than a minute. Thunderbolt 3 also connects to all displays and monitors using the standard DisplayPort and even Mini DisplayPort. And, by using an adaptor, Thunderbolt will support HDMI and VGA as well.

2. Solid state hard drives

For decades, most laptops and desktops came equipped with a traditional hard drive that spun, using an arm to access the data, much like a record player. At the time of its inception, this was the most practical way to store data when power to the unit was cut off.

A solid state hard drive serves the same function as a hard drive with moving parts, but operates differently by storing data on flash memory chips that retain their data, even when there’s no power. This is significant because it wasn’t previously easy to get memory chips to retain their data when the power supply was cut off. For example, RAM (random access memory) only stores data temporarily—when the power supply is cut off, all stored data is erased.

Although they’re a bit more expensive, solid state hard drives are much faster than their predecessors, allowing computers to boot up in less than a minute and sometimes even seconds. If you grew up with older technology running on operating systems like Windows 95 and 2000, you’ll appreciate this quick boot time.

Another benefit to solid state drives is they can’t become fragmented, meaning you won’t have to spend nights of torture defragmenting your hard drive. They’re also extremely durable.

Now that solid state drives have become mainstream, more computer manufacturers are offering new desktop and laptop computers that come with a solid state drive as a standard option. This means they’re becoming more affordable, which is great news for everyone.

3. 3D printing

The term “printing” has come to be associated with putting ink on paper—a seemingly 2D surface. However, technology has advanced to where 3D printing has become a huge trend. 3D printing is achieved with a computer program that allows you to create a 3D model of an object, and feed the data to a machine that constructs the model by compiling layers of melted plastic.

3D printing is not just limited to people who can afford expensive equipment. You can buy small 3D printers for your home computer that let you design 3D objects, and print them out right in your office.

Although 3D printing has fun uses, it also has practical uses. Among the most amazing things printed have been houses, actual train tracks, bridges, cars, and even body parts.

In 2014, a 3D printed roadster called the Strati was made onsite at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago, IL. This 3D printed car was so cool, Popular Mechanics took it for a test drive and gave it a great review.

4. Smart objects for your home

Smart objects in the home can be a luxury, but they can also be useful. Take the Kohler Numi toilet, for example. This is a toilet that has a motion-activated lid mechanism that allows you to open and close it without touching anything. With an air dryer, deodorizer, and heated seat, it’s definitely practical. To add luxury to practicality, this device comes with an MP3 docking station. This toilet could be a dream for germophobes.

Lock your deadbolt remotely

Another useful smart object is called Lockitron. This device fits over your deadbolt and allows you to operate your deadbolt from your smartphone. This device would be a perfect solution for AirBnB hosts who can’t always be present to deliver keys to their guests.

Driverless cars

The ultimate smart object that seems to outdo any other gadgets is the driverless car. At first glance, it may seem alarming to have an unmanned vehicle—something that can be very dangerous at high speeds—strolling down busy neighborhood streets. But when Google began testing its driverless electric cars in Mountain View, CA, they discovered they are actually pretty safe. Possibly even safer than cars with human drivers.

The important question is if driverless cars are safer for pedestrians and cyclists, two road hazards human drivers often have a difficult time seeing. The answer appears to be yes—driverless cars seem to be safer for pedestrians and cyclists because they’re programmed to perceive surroundings as predictable data.

In fact, during one test drive, a driverless car was able to perceive a pedestrian about to step into the street and the car hesitated to make sure the person didn’t start crossing the street before turning.

The future of technology is unlimited

Twenty years ago, it wasn’t likely that anyone was thinking about connecting an MP3 player to their toilet. It’s somewhat of an unnecessary luxury, but the fact that it’s possible is a great indication of where technology is headed.

If a fully functioning car can be printed from plans created in a computer program, the height of what can be achieved with computers is only limited to what we can create in our minds. As Napoleon Hill said, “whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”

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